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Malik Mcdowell: the Best Option for the Chargers at 7

Kyle Posey breaks down the likely best pick for the Chargers #7 overall.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

In the draft, you’re looking for talent. You’re looking for difference makers. In the top 10, you take players that can win in ways that only a handful at the next level can. With defensive lineman, you can tell within a few plays if he is a player or not within 5-10 plays. With Malik McDowell, on the 4th play, I knew. I knew I was watching a special player. That just carried over to the next 4 games. He’s an animal. From a potential standpoint, I think he has the highest ceiling of anybody in the draft. Yes, anybody.

Abnormal Anchor

Listed at 6’6 276 pounds, McDowell holds his ground like a top tier nose tackle. Sparty played him inside because he could get 1-on-1 opportunities against the run and just destroy interior lineman.

Above he’s lined up over the center. Not only is Mcdowell a missile off the ball, he plays with a level of disrespect that I just haven’t seen in a while. That’s what helps him hold up against double teams. You’d expect a 6’6” guy to play with poor pad level but Mcdowell constantly fires off low and wrecks the offenses plan to run up the middle.

There he’s lined up right over the ball and is facing a combo block between the guard and the center. The result? He moves them backward. That was the 2nd play of the game. That’s not a routine play. Guys don’t do that against double teams. These are the plays that stand out when watching McDowell. Fierce is the best way to describe his play style. He always seems mad and I love it.

It’s not an out of control, wildly, reckless mad, though. Mcdowell knows where the ball is at all times. He has plenty of finesse in his game and can set you up to fall forward right after he’s forced you to fire off the ball and match his intensity.

As we all found out last year, finishing is a skill. McDowell has shown he can do that inside. He usually played in the A-gap on run downs. What you saw McDowell do was effectively work down the line of scrimmage while using his length to keep himself clean of the offensive line. I think that kind of multi-tasking he showed, and range, while locating the ball-carrier and finishing is a big reason why he is one of the better run defenders in the class.

People will worry about size with McDowell but watch how he plays and there aren’t more than 5 times where you see him get washed out of his gap inside. I don’t see that changing at the next level with the way he plays. He’ll continue to wreak havoc.

Where he gets in trouble is where you’d expect a 6’6 guy to get in trouble. Standing up after initial contact. This was still a rarity which says something about the kind of anchor McDowell possesses. If anything, he created running lanes by trying to win with an arm over and that caused him to lose gap responsibility.


One area where I made a mistake with Joey Bosa last year was dinging him for his 1st step, but not taking into account how much ground he covered on his 2nd and 3rd step. I’ve learned from that.

With McDowell, his toolbox is full. All the physical gifts in the world. He covers ground at his size that guys 30 pounds lighter would kill for. Sparty kicked him to the edge on passing downs and we got a chance to see McDowell showcase his raw athleticism.

That is against the best left tackle in the draft. When we’re talking about the toolbox, that’s not just bursting past with explosion. That’s using your hands as well in one fluid movement to get by the tackle. Again, guys this size aren’t supposed to do that.

Word is he played at 285 this year which makes these more impressive. I’m guessing he’ll drop 7-10 pounds for the combine. That’s him beating another 1st round tackle, just next year. That is his go to move. The chop, rip, & dip.

As naturally gifted as McDowell is, he’ll need to sharpen his pass rushing moves. It’s the chop/rip/dip, or a chop/arm over. Those are really the lone moves he has in his arsenal. Other than him being the only threat and being accounted for, this is the reason for his low sack numbers. I want to see him counter to the inside more. Set the tackle up as a pass rusher like he does as a run defender. You’ll see glimpses:

But few and far between. That’s all he needs to do. There’s no real technique required there. He’s just getting the right tackle to move left and right while gaining ground. Since tackles have to respect his speed, they retreat. Too often he settled for trying to win the edge without actually countering so tackles didn’t have to worry about another move. He’s 20 years old for another 4 months. I’m going to safely assume that once he’s put in a position to work full time as a pass rusher that McDowell will develop at least 1 counter. Looking at how he wins against the run, converting speed to power, a coach will really work with McDowell on his bull-rush. That might be enough.

Waning Effort

By all accounts, people in East Lansing say he quit on his team. They don’t support him. Some will say losing got to him. After talking to people that are around the team, I think it’s obvious a change of scenery will do Mcdowell wonders. I don’t really buy too much into the off-field stuff because I’ve seen what he can do when he’s fully engaged. He had plays where he dominated and the rest of the defense is getting blown off the ball. Not to make excuses for him because not trying late in the season when you’re out of it is unacceptable. But he’s dominated full games at a time. His effort is the least of my concerns.

Why Mcdowell

Ferocious. Active. Under control. Versatile. A finisher. A tone setter. Balanced. Strength. Ideally, Mcdowell would play the 3 technique in Gus Bradley’s defense. In an over front, you put him into the strong side and he just blows sh*t up. Bounce him up and down the line of scrimmage. When you watch him against Northwestern, you see his usage and you see a star.

You see a bit of everything. You see him win from everywhere, even in space. He can do things no other player in this draft class can. I truly mean it when I say he has the highest ceiling of any player in the class. No matter what the team does with Melvin Ingram, you won’t find a better player available at 7 than McDowell.